Do you believe God can change your marriage in 2016?
That’s half the battle, right there. Because maybe, just maybe, you’ve given up hope.
What if the mess your marriage is in exists because of a number of God-created and poorly humanly handled circumstances and responses?
Here’s what we know to be true, things that are scientific, but Biblical:
- Humans have a natural tendency to “habituate” – in other words, you and your husband (and your kids) are naturally wired to take each other for granted and “get used to” each other – good but also not good. Chew on that for a few minutes.
- Gratitude – daily style – is the only thing that combats habituation.
- Our culture is designed to destroy the self esteem of young boys and girls (read Reviving Ophelia and Raising Cain to discover the impact – and these were written a while ago – things are worse now). This destruction ruins our relationships. Why? We can only receive as much love as we are giving – and we can only give as much love as we receive. This is wired into our brains. Our ability to love & respect ourselves is tied directly to our ability to love & respect God – and others.
- The results of the culture (and our own unhealthy responses to it) destroy relationships.
- These results and reactions leave us with broken men. They are men who stuff their feelings, lack healthy identity and esteem, become defensive, lack empathy, and are disconnected and resistant to intimacy emotionally with their wives.
- These results and reactions leave us with broken women. Women (and men) are trapped in feelings of unworthiness, gaining identity at the altar of other people’s opinions, lack healthy identity and esteem, are defensive, and are disconnected emotionally from their husbands, even though they desperately want to connect.
- The way we pursue our desires keeps us from naturally attaining them. We push our dreams (and people) away, instead of bringing them closer to us.
- The end result is isolation and divorce. We find intimacy and deep connection with the people we love the most elusive and impossible – and so do our kids because they can’t model behaviors they haven’t seen.
Here’s an example, brief, but you’ll get a small taste of what I’m talking about:
Johnny falls and skins his knee. He cries.
Mom or Dad or babysitter, gramma, grampa, or older sibling tell him to “get over it,” because “big boys don’t cry.” Johnny doesn’t know what to do with how he feels, so from the age of three, he quickly learns to stuff how he feels.
He doesn’t receive empathy.
How can he learn how to give it?
Without empathy, relationships DIE. And a recent study from the University of Chicago shows that kids from religious homes are LESS empathetic and altruistic than those without faith.
We’re judging and not loving. So Johnny (and the little girls his age) have tons of rules in their Christian home, but no relationship – because at the very foundation of relationship is having empathy for another person – an openness to them, allowing them to process their feelings the way they need to so they can fully mature in healthy ways.
Homes aren’t safe emotionally – for anyone. Dad and mom use their energy being stoic instead of real and vulnerable with each other and their kids, while the kids hide their true selves to escape judgment, knowing their pain, anger, hurt, etc., won’t be met with empathy, so they miss out on support and wisdom from the people who love them most of all in their lives.
And based on my research, these things are at the root of what’s wrong with our families, particularly our marriages.
Judgment. Fear of vulnerability because of it. Lack of empathy.
We’ve missed out completely on the message of Jesus Christ.
He came to save the world – yes from Hell and eternal damnation, but more importantly (in this Now until we die) He came to give us life abundant in the middle of the small moments of a day, where we could gain life-bringing support, encouragement, love, etc., from the people who matter most to us.
From a young age, a boy is taught to “be tough,” so he doesn’t learn empathy as much as he could – he learns instead to deny his feelings instead of healthy ways of dealing with them. Little girls do not suffer this, so they’re fine, at least until they hit puberty (age 8-12 now) where they receive more conflicting messages about what it means to be female – sexuality is rewarded and also chastised. Confusing messages about “look beautiful” but don’t be a “slut” while “having it all” and encouragement to “embrace her sexuality” yet be a “good girl” leave her with cognitive dissonance, unclear of who she is or what is expected.
Think about your own sexual history, your own confusions about what being female means, and then compound this by marrying a man who is told he is a “protector” but he also gets cultural pressure to “conquer” women, his job, his social group, etc., and he’s as confused as we are.
Then we marry – and bring kids into this, starting the whole thing all over again. By the time our kids are in junior high or high school, our marriages are in trouble from all the un-handled baggage, and adding the issues of struggling young people carrying their own. We’re enabling instead of equipping, fighting against instead of fighting for, love is lost, men and women are labeled (and have too often become) abusive, co-dependent, and/or controlling, women are marked as shrews, and our families are falling apart.
We don’t know what to do, so we settle for isolation. We live separate lives instead of creating marriages that represent Christ and the church.
Or we give up and divorce.
Without even trying, we’ve bought the lies of the culture over God’s truths.
And not all the time, but too often, this happens to us whether we grew up in the church or not.
Some of those lies are the church’s. Man has placed himself on the throne and taken to judging the world, instead of allowing the Jesus-in-us to save it.
Too often if we’ve grown up in the church, we’ve taken to judging others instead of loving them, and our children are reflecting this. Another study shows that college-age people have 40% less empathy, care most about achievement, and are more focused on individual happiness than 30-40 years ago.
No wonder the world doesn’t see us as a positive influence.
What can we do?
If you are open to God changing your marriage in 2016, I’m inviting you to join me on a journey. I’ve been wrestling my way through this study, just like I did with Daughters of Sarah for many years. My husband and I had an interesting conversation the other day where we realized that it is important to respect and love ourselves well in order to love and respect each other better. We’re both growing in this area, and like you, we want to see our kids fully grasp these things.
The research supports this. (check this – the more we demonstrate compassion for ourselves, the more we show it to others – AND vice-versa! God is so good!)
And God calls us to it.
Don’t you think it matters?
Don’t you agree it’s what God would want? FAMILIES, not individuals, but communities, of people that not only “look different” but love well?
Here’s what I’d encourage you to do in 2016 to do your part in working with God to change your marriage:
- Believe He can.
- Spend 15-20 minutes reading the date in Proverbs and 5 Psalms a day, allowing Him to teach you what you don’t know, and apply these things to your daily life. There are 31 Proverbs, so if it is the 14th, you read Proverbs 14. There are 150 Psalms, so you just read 5 different Psalms a day, starting at 1-5 for the first day, regardless of the date. Here’s more on how that works – I’ve been doing it off and on for over 15 years. It’s awesome.
- If you have kids, spend the money on Dr. John Gottman’s parenting materials for raising emotionally intelligent children. And no, I don’t get a kick back from recommending this to you – We’ll have a new book out this spring to help with this, too. 🙂
- Deal with your own junk. Seriously. Here’s a great place to start.
- If all you do in your family is fight – or if you’ve taken to shriveling up and letting others walk all over you – try Celebrate Recovery. It’s for abusers, co-dependents, victims, addicts, etc., and it’s excellent. Here’s the books.
- If you know you need to do your part putting an end to being a critical wife and want to grow your relationship with God and your husband, start a Daughters of Sarah or Respect Dare group in your neighborhood. If you aren’t someone who respects herself, read Dr. Cloud’s Boundaries in Marriage and/or Dr. Dobson’s Love Must be Tough books while you do these things.
Why the both on # 6? Because if you don’t have a healthy (not selfish) respect, love, compassion for yourself, you’ll teach others to walk all over you – and you’ll enable abusive behavior. And you’ll malign the Word by teaching other women to do likewise.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve done this myself.
I know Daughters looks a little cumbersome, but He may be calling you into leadership. Grab a few friends, and jump in. And email me when you have questions. NinaRoesner(at)GreaterImpact.org. 🙂
What I plan to do for 2016 is a journey that continues the new dares, one where we respect ourselves, show ourselves compassion, and deepen our relationship with God. The end result is self-respect, healthy boundaries, modeling true strength, dignity and beauty for our daughters, and setting an example for our sons, all while honoring God and respecting our husbands. It’s all Biblical.
I’m personally inviting you to join me if you haven’t already. Subscribe to the marriage TIPS! on the sidebar or just the blog here if you want that via email. If you have gmail, know you’ll have to visit your “social” or “promotions” tab to get it unless you choose otherwise.
I want to tell you also, that if you are abused in your marriage, if your husband verbally assaults you, diminishes you, calls you names, disregards you as a person, doesn’t care about your health (emotionally or physically), is neglectful, or physically abusive,
DO NOT DO THE RESPECT DARE.
That is a book for how to respect your husband – and it assumes you have some healthy boundaries and some self respect already.
What will happen if you do it anyway and you’re abused? He’s going to habituate to a whole new level of taking advantage of you. If you think you are tired now, you haven’t seen anything yet.
If you are NOT being abused, however, join us.
Here’s a few links that might help you get started, too:
AND, my favorite for you for 2016!!!
The Compassion Exercise that IMPROVES Relationships with God, your “challenging person” and yourself! (if you do this for 14-21 days you’ll love the results! Over 86% of our pilot groups deeply improved their relationships with God, their “challenging person” and over 50% improved their feelings about themselves)
We’ll get started next week.
Love to you,
What about you? What do YOU want to be different in 2016? Do you want God to change your marriage? How have you seen “habituation” and gratitude effect your family? Dare you to chime in today! 🙂